Tuesday, August 30, 2016

For The Time Being

‘We live in all we seek. The hidden shows up in too-plain sight. It lives captive on the face of the obvious – the people, events, and things of the day – to which we as sophisticated children have long since become oblivious. What a hideout: Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color.’       
~Annie Dillard: For The Time Being

     Morning. Ariel goes out to the garden.

I’m in the cabin finishing breakfast and a strange cry erupts outside, a loud, desperate mewling, like a baby’s cry.

Ariel calls to me from the yard, and I go to her.

She’d gone to turn the water on at the outside faucet and there awoke a newborn fawn asleep in the grass. The startled fawn swiftly gained its legs and took flight across the yard, the velocity of its run carrying it headlong into the hogwire fence surrounding the garden.

I arrive to find Ariel holding the bawling fawn, its aquiline head stuck like an arrow point through the steel netting of fence.

Ariel grips the trembling baby while I pry open the wire mesh behind its ears, feeling its nervous heat.

Free, the spotted newborn runs toward the pine woods terrified and shaken though seemingly unharmed. We watch the trees transform its spots to sunbeams and then absorb its form. And it is gone.

 Is it true that deer are able to ascend to heaven while still in their physical bodies?

 Later, I’m still thinking about the fawn and events as I walk over to the river to fish. You just never know when a shadow might hit you like an alien invasion and send you hustling toward a trap, I tell myself. Best you can do is: lick a finger, point at the sky, feel the now.

I stand by the river over stones under broken clouds contemplating the home water. The breadth of its span. The generous curve of sky above the forested reach. Big water. The Mother Of Rivers once hosting every species of salmonid native to the American Pacific and West Slope. It inspires a humbling perspective. Things are what they are; and we carry history with us, it’s not really the past. Also, concrete has a definite lifespan – water is stronger than rock. And all rivers have a beginning, middle, and end, converging as one in the great tao ocean, secretly well.

Almost time to offer something.

In the distance, a black sail rides the water. I’ve been expecting it. The flow carries it close to my position and then the big Black Quill dun drifts on by. I watch it go down the run anticipating its death. And that does come, in the nervous water seventy feet below me where the run converges with the mainstem current streaming from a rock outcropping, the converging currents rendered to neutral velocity at the meeting place. I spot a lazy bulge among the ripples on the convergence and the mayfly disappears.

A riseform like that doesn’t give away the size of a trout. O a splashy one may give away a small, eager fish, but after a couple years of life they get fairly slick about their feeding habits. Might be a 14-inch fish. Could be a bigger one.

Watching the water, I pull a sack of Drum from my pocket and twist a smoke, light it, exhale. Another drake tilts by, its charcoal wings spread to a V, drying. And then a couple more. One gets intercepted before it makes it to the sweet zone, where I saw the first rise. A good sign. Trout are keyed to the big mayfly’s presence and are beginning to move up the run from their loafing hold way down on the convergence.

The hair-winged fraud is an old friend and a good match. It needs to be fished downstream on this spot. No other way here. I make a cast out and down and strip line from the reel like crazy, slaking it out through the guides to keep up with the swiftly drifting fly, knowing any hint of drag will mean a muffed presentation and probable refusal.

The fly reaches the arrowhead of neutral convergence water and I quit feeding line as it begins to make a natural sweep with the current, hunting across the apex toward the outer seam.  I lose sight of the fly in the glare.

There is a strong boil next to the seam where I hope the fly is. I strip to gather slack and the line comes tight and alive against a violent weight –  

Lovely as it may be, ours is a savage, extravagantly dangerous world. Deer know this. The instinct to flee is supremely necessary and deeply ingrained in most creatures attempting to survive here. ‘Fight or flight’ are prime survival imperatives, ‘flight’ being the more popular mode of the two. Of all species it is the naked ape that seems most inclined to the ‘fight’ option. There is no greater fighter than a pissed-off, purposeful naked ape – and how efficiently and with what shock & awe the fighting is done is a matter of pride. I’m here to fight. As hard as anyone armed with a stick weighing 2 ½ ounces, rigged with 6 pound test string, may fight.

At the other end of the line, the trout, has definitely chosen the ‘flight’ option (and funny we call this a ‘fight’, as if mute fish deliberately seek to challenge and beat us at this contrived game wherein we win no matter what and can only beat ourselves) and bolts downstream peeling line from my old high school days Pflueger Medalist with overwhelming speed –

I lower the rod and palm the rim attempting to slow it and the trout feels the slight change in pressure and responds by accelerating its run straining the rod into the butt and bringing a tortured whine not heard from the Medalist before and I dare not palm the rim now and risk busting the tippet –

The line backing spins off toward the bitter end and the trout suddenly stops – then reverses direction and speeds like a torpedo fired straight toward my position on the rocks and I try to gather the weightless string eschewing the reel in favor of hand-stripping as fast as I can go and the backing and about half the shooting line nests at my feet and the line abruptly comes tight against an immovable object.

Submerged in the deep pool between the converging currents are some cow sized boulders, I know. Seems the trout has made a wrap around one of these and the line is wedged…

Crap. Bummer. I don’t dare pull harder. I figure the trout has already torn free or broken the tippet. Why break or strip the coating off a fairly good line for nothing? But the line transmits a subtle throb…

The backing and most of the shooting line gathered onto the spool, I leave a couple pulls of slack on the water, tuck the rod under my arm, reach into my pants pocket for the makings, roll a smoke, light it, and wait with the line hanging slack. What else can I do?

The sun finishes its descent behind a far ridge. A sundown breeze freshens bringing the earthy joss of pine, rock, and trout. Above, in the deepening blue, hundreds of swallows dive and wheel, adeptly picking sedges from the swirling air currents.

I’m finishing the smoke, and the slack line lying on the water begins to straighten and rise –   

Sometimes you get lucky. Given its head and some time the trout has swum in the right direction, unwinding the line from around the rock – it comes up against the resistance of my rod, lights up, and attempts to bolt – but now lacks its initial mojo and I’m able to put the breaks on it before it reaches the faster mainstream current – this makes me happy and I’m relieved – things are going my way – this time.

There are big trout inhabiting the home water and I carry a long-handled guide net with a 24-inch opening. The trout, substantially longer than the net opening, gives me a hard time, bouncing out of the bag on the first pass, forcing me to bite my lip and swear. Finally I get a head shot, scoop, and it’s in.

It’s a buck redband, humped and deep bodied with an immense knobbed kype, the broad band running down each flank red as the final blood meridian of day. I slip the hook from its jaw, tail it from the net and hold it upright in the water until it kicks away. The river absorbs its light and it is gone.    

Walking up the bluff from the river I’m thinking about: deer, trout, fight, flight, velocity and convergence. Perhaps someday we’ll understand supersymmetry. We’ll know, without a doubt, the connectedness of everything. Maybe we’ll find the true creation icon hidden within human symbols and myth. I shake my head and wonder ~   

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Art of Jan & Jeff Cottrell

Ink & Wash ~ Jan Cottrell

     The dog days of August are full upon us in the Northwest. Hatches that spurred great trouting this spring & early summer have boiled down to a faint spritz in late evening, serving to bring up only a few trout, & those, smaller fish.

Green Butt Spey ~ Jeff Cottrell
 I miss Jan & Jeff from the Evening Hatch, who’ve pulled the plug until September, moving their operation to more productive territory over in steelhead country. On days off from guiding, Jeff & I fish. Or, sometimes, they come over with a bottle of wine or two, & Jan with her sketchbook. We sit around the picnic table in the yard, Doris & Jan sipping wine & working on their drawings or watercolors while Jeff & I chainsmoke & shoot the shit.

Ink & Wash ~ Jan Cottrell
If I was in the life game for monetary gain, I’d of gone into real estate or politics. But Henry James said: “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, & I know of no substitute for the beauty & force of its process.” Birds of a feather do tend to hang together, & one of the most satisfying rewards inherent to the artist’s life is the companionship we often find in fellow artists, as these tend to possess developed observational skills that serve to make them interesting & fun company (for the most part). (Unless you really love living dangerously, I’d suggest avoidance of depressed, ear-snipping painters & shotgun-wielding writers.)

Orange Heron Spey ~ Jeff Cottrell 

Regarding ‘things’, Deepak Chopra acknowledges: “If it’s not absolutely beautiful, or absolutely useful, you don’t need it… it is an anchor.”

Ink & Wash ~ Jan Cottrell

The fruit of Jan & Jeff’s labor meets both criteria for things worth keeping.

Harlequin Spey ~ Jeff Cottrell

Jan left me some of her exquisite watercolor & ink drawings. Jeff gave me some of the Spey designs he ties for steelhead. In these things we see that art truly does reflect life, but also the refinement of its crafters, & their intimate connection to life.

Ink & Wash ~ Jan Cottrell

Jeff Cottrell’s fly designs are available from Rainy’s Flies. Anyone interested in original, print, or commission work from Jan Cottrell, might reach her through contacting me at: columbiatrout@sbcglobal.net 

Deep Purple Spey ~ Jeff Cottrell